On February 25, 2015, the Quebec Minister of Sustainable
Development, Environment and the Fight against Climate Change David
Heurtel, announced a proposal to modernize the current
environmental authorization regime provided for in the
Environment Quality Act (EQA). The Minister stated that
the process needed to be more clear, more efficient and
predictable. The modernization of the EQA and the simplification of
the environmental authorization process follow similar efforts
undertaken in Ontario a few years ago.
CURRENT AUTHORIZATION REGIME UNDER THE EQA
Section 22 of the EQA provides for a preventive regime that
requires prior approval from the Ministry of Sustainable
Development, Environment and the Fight against Climate Change
(MSDEF) for certain projects or activities that may impact the
quality of the environment. According to the MSDEF, over 5,000
ministerial authorizations are granted each year.
This provision has not undergone major modifications since its
adoption in 1972. New environmental challenges and increased
administrative requirements as part of the approval process over
the years have prompted the MSDEF to conduct the current
The main objectives of the new approach are to:
Make adjustments to the authorization regime based on
environmental risk and focus most of the MSDEF's efforts on
projects with significant environmental impacts
Take into consideration the Quebec greenhouse gas emissions
reduction target of 20% in the approval process
Optimize the approval process to increase efficiency and reduce
processing delays (which can extend over several months in some
Promote rigor, coherence, consistency and information sharing
in the process of analyzing requests for authorization
OVERVIEW OF MODERNIZATION EFFORT
The MSDEF proposes to change the authorization process so that
the degree of assessment will vary based on the environmental risk
according to four categories of activity: high risk, moderate risk,
low risk and negligible risk. Changes are anticipated to the
environmental impact assessment process and for high-risk projects,
including to the BAPE process (the province's public
hearings' bureau). With respect to low-risk and negligible risk
activities, the process will be simplified and clarified.
The new regime also aims to reduce the administrative burden
associated with obtaining an authorization and to decrease delays
for the issuance of certificates of authorization, in addition to
promoting transparency, public participation and access to
The current process for transferring an environmental
authorization when an asset sale occurs may also be streamlined.
The current process requires that the MSDEF's consent to
transfer be obtained and can take an average of two to three
The Minister's announcement was well received by industry,
which in the past has been frustrated by the lack of clarity,
predictability and efficiency of the approval process as well as
the sometimes prohibitive delays encountered and the inconsistent
application of the regime in different regions of the province.
Industry players hope that modernization of the authorization
regime could lead to the implementation of a single window approach
for obtaining permits and certificates of authorization for major
NEXT STEPS OF MODERNIZATION PROCESS
Targeted consultations with environmental, institutional and
economic organizations are scheduled for March and April 2015. A
consultation document (green paper) will be tabled at the National
Assembly this spring, followed by special consultations before a
legislative committee. It is planned that a bill will be presented
to the National Assembly in the fall of 2015, and the
implementation of the new environmental authorizations regime is
expected in 2016.
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guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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